When you are contemplating buying a new smartphone, drone or other pieces of tech – most people first look online. They seek out tech reviews from YouTubers, bloggers, even the occasional Instagramer. Those tech reviews help them with their decision by answering questions they may have had. Then, once confirmed that the device is right for them, they go and buy it. But, lately, I’ve noticed a larger group of people calling reviewers ethics into question. Comments that accuse the reviewer of being paid by the brand, or having sacrificed their integrity for the sake of being nice to the brand. It’s usually by people who have no interest in the product, and just like to see the world burn… so this op-ed/rant is a little bit of a letter to those people. Because believe it or not, reviewing tech is harder than you think.
Now before you take that as ammunition to think things like “Oh really? Using the latest tech is hard? Tough life!” You’re not wrong – but you don’t see the full picture. Reviewing tech is a blessing of a career or side gig. It’s a lot of fun to test out the newest stuff and try them before anyone else. There’s definitely an elitism to it – one built on YEARS of hard work. But yes, using tech is the easy and enjoyable part. It’s when we share our thoughts that it gets hard.
Is it just me or do most Tech Review and Unboxing Youtube channels sound predictable, bias and without personal opinion. 🤔
— pb 🇨🇦 (@PJBenedicto) July 12, 2017
— Mat (@NotEnoughTECH) September 12, 2017
People calling my Metroid review biased because it’s for a site with ‘Nintendo’ in its name. Ah, internet, you make me feel young again #ONM
— Chris Scullion (@scully1888) September 12, 2017
It starts with comparing features. When you look at a new device as a tech reviewer, you have to think about it both as the sum of its own parts but also compare it to other similar devices. It needs to both be examined in a vacuum and against everything else. That’s not always an easy thing to do but it’s an important part of a proper tech review. If we only compared it to everything else, it might leave out a killer feature. If we only considered its components, there would be nothing to weigh it against. So we have to do our best to consider both. This is a skill that develops over time and isn’t immediately part of most reviewers skills.
Then there’s bias. As a reviewer, you do your absolute best to avoid having any bias when looking at the device. It’s just something you know how to do after years of experience (it’s not inherent – you learn to avoid bias). If you believe ARE biased for one reason or another, most reviewers disclose this. Casey Neistat is a good example of someone who has learned to disclose his bias’ over time.
Tech Reviews and Candy
Now, let’s talk scores… because that’s one thing we all hear a lot about… how everything is so highly rated. I mean, I look back at some of the tech reviews I’ve done and a LOT are in the 70%-90% range. That’s high marks! But when we review things well, people criticize us of being paid off or being too nice to the brands. Again, the bias comment.
To understand truly what it’s like to be a tech reviewer…. go to a candy store and buy 20 different pieces of candy. Now eat them, and tell me which one is the best candy? All candy is damn good candy! I mean, every now and then you’re going to run into a double salted black licorice or a handful of Vomit Flavoured Jelly Bellies… but most of it is gummy worms, gummy bears, jujubes and Swedish berries. Those are all 8-9/10 candies!
Tech in 2017 is amazing. Every phone has a solid battery life, great screens, fast performance and a cool design. Even the budget phones that compromise on something make up for it in price points! Tech is awesome and it’s hard to find ‘bad’ tech on the market. Juicero was a cool concept, but bad tech (the product itself STILL looks cool.) So, we do our best to get nitpicky and find problems that may bother some users. Most people probably wouldn’t be bothered by the fact a finger sensor is placed in one spot over another. Most won’t change their buying habits based on a logo placement. But, they are small details that detract from an overall experience. We point those things out.
We’re Here to Help
As we edge closer to the holiday season, keep this in mind when you read or watch tech reviews with high ratings. While it’s easy to assume they are on the payroll… Chances are the tech is deserving of such a high rating because tech in 2017 is incredible. Even though doing tech reviews is hard to do… our raison d’etre is to help you decide whether it’s worth buying. So, if you ever have a question, don’t hesitate to drop it into comments or tweet it to us! We’re here to help!
Obvious note: I don’t speak for everyone!